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Educational Experience

Ava Cotlowitz's picture

Table of Contents

  1. Pre-K – Kindergarten: Shifting from Montessori School to Public School and Learning how to Read
  2. 2nd-3rd Grade: Learning how to Behave in a School Setting and Classroom Etiquette
  3. 5th-6th Grade: Shifting from Public School to Private School
  4. 7th Grade: Learning What it Means to Cheat
  5. 6th-8th Grade: The Hierarchy of the Privileged in Private School
  6. 8th-9th Grade: Shifting from Private School to Public School
  7. 10th-12th Grade: Beginning a Creative Education of Art
  8. 12th-College: Shifting from High School to College

Educational Experience Paper

Shifting from Montessori School to Public School and Learning how to Read

            “I don’t want to go to school!” I yelled at my mom, the morning of my first day of Preschool.

            “School’s going to be fun,” she told me “You’ll make friends and play and you’ll be back home before you know it.”

            I was skeptical. I hadn’t been away from my parents for an entire day before and I wasn’t ready to start now. Yet, after a series of tantrums and screams I was finally imprisoned in my car seat and transported to Huntington Montessori.  Tightly gripping my mom’s hand, we walked down long tiled hallways passing large rooms filled with playful children. 

            “Well, they seem to be having fun,” I thought. But I still wasn’t too sure. At last, we stopped at the door of a room that seemed as big as a football field.  Children were scattered all around the room in small clusters, each engaging in a different kind of activity. On the floor were readers, Playdough players, and puzzle makers; on the tables were writers, drawers, and painters; against the wall were musicians, chefs, and animal lovers.  My heart began to thump,

            “What is this place?” I thought. At that moment my new teacher approached my mom and I and introduced herself.

            “Hello! My name is Ms. Wassel. I’m going to be your teacher. Go ahead and play wherever you would like,” she said with a smile. I instantly forgot about the burning hatred I had towards school ten minutes ago and ran off to play with the pretend kitchen set.  As I became more adjusted to my classroom, classmates, and teachers, I noticed that each student was operating differently from one another. That is, instead of our class being dictated as a whole unit, each student was given different sets of guidelines, instructions, and rules. Amanda, my classmate, was always painting and would therefore receive instruction geared towards her methods of painting, while Daniel, another classmate, was constantly practicing how to write, and would consequently receive instruction specified to his methods of writing.  Each student was viewed as an individual with individual motivations, desires, and interests.  It seemed to be the job of our teacher to harness these qualities and characteristics in order to further our own sense of understanding, awareness, and overall knowledge.

            During this time I also began discovering what I was most passionate about – reading.  My teacher would give me reading workbooks, which I would then bring home, complete, and return to Preschool the next day, asking for more. I loved these workbooks. Every day I would sit with Ms. Wassel for some time and we would talk out the processes of answering its questions, filling in its blanks, and sounding out its words.  I was determined to read an entire book on my own and it was because of these workbooks and the specialized and intensive instruction from Ms. Wassel  that I finally succeeded towards the end of my time at Huntington Montessori.  For the next year, I moved towns and enrolled in a public Elementary School at the start of Kindergarten.

            Eager to continue my rampant to read, I entered Kindergarten expecting a Ms. Wassel, a classroom of scattered clusters of children, and a freedom for individualized passions and interests. Yet, to my discomfort, none of this occurred. Ms. Hamburger was polite and kind, but she treated all of my peers and me like we were the same. When we learned, we learned together and when we played, we played together and no one thing one of us learned or played was different from that of another. We weren’t allowed to go off on our own and focus on something of particular interest to us and Ms. Hamburger certainly wasn’t interested in giving any one of us a concentrated time of individualized attention (unless we were deserving of a timeout).  I was confused and wary, uncertain of my educator and how I was supposed to learn and grow. Even though my reading skills were far beyond that of my classmates, I was still given the same reading exercises as the students that couldn’t yet read a page of a book without significant guidance.

            One day, Ms. Hamburger confronted me with a question that warmed heart,

            “Would you like to read a book to the class?” At once, I felt like all of my hard work, all of my struggles thus far were instantly validated. Finally, Ms. Hamburger was helping me do what I enjoy most in a way that would allow me to grow and further my reading skills. With all of the glee I could muster, I said yes and hopped onto the reading chair filled with pride and joy.  As I read Princess Smartypants aloud to the class, I felt the words on the page move through me with comfort and ease.  At last, I was practicing what I loved in way that was challenging my current understanding and allowing me to learn more.   


maddybeckmann's picture

questions I thought about while reading..

Ava, I love your post! It is so cute! It makes me think about equal education and how much we should tailor to each student and how we should make classwork equal? If a student like you is ahead in a certain subject is there a way to maintain equality in the classroom, but also push you ahead?